What We Learned: 2010 Senior Bowl

Neither Lovie Smith nor Jerry Angelo was on hand, but the Chicago Bears still made their presence felt at the Senior Bowl. What did we learn based on the conversations that took place all week in Mobile?

1. Cutler, Hanie and Basanez will probably be the depth chart again
The 2010 NFL Draft is not expected to be a good one for the quarterback position, and with first-round prospects like Sam Bradford of Oklahoma, Jimmy Clausen of Notre Dame and Colt McCoy of Texas not on hand in Mobile, the Senior Bowl QBs left a lot to be desired. Needless to say, with Jay Cutler under center, the Bears weren't going to consider a passer near the top of the draft anyway, but now the coaches should be even more comfortable with Caleb Hanie as the backup. While no. 3 Brett Basanez doesn't offer much in terms of physical tools, he is invaluable on game day helping Cutler dissect what's going on between the lines.

And not to worry, Bears fans, because Florida's Tim Tebow did nothing but hurt his stock dramatically during the week and doesn't look like a legitimate NFL signal caller, so there is no way he's on general manager Jerry Angelo's radar.

2. This team can never have too many linebackers on the roster
It was reported last week that the Bears will bring back Pisa Tinoisamoa and likely place him in the starting lineup again alongside Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. That means, despite starting most of last season due to injuries to Tinoisamoa and Urlacher and performing admirably, Hunter Hillenmeyer and Nick Roach will go back to the roles set aside for them last training camp: reliable reserves. Nevertheless, the Bears still showed a lot of interest in some of the young linebackers in Mobile, even elite prospects like Missouri's Sean Weatherspoon and TCU's Daryl Washington.

Weatherspoon and Washington both had big weeks at the Senior Bowl and may come off the board in Round 1, so a lesser-heralded LB like Donald Butler of Washington would be a more realistic expectation.

3. Getting the running game going is the primary focus on offense
The Bears appear to be somewhat content with their receiving corps since the speedy Jacoby Ford of Clemson was the only wideout to catch their attention in Mobile, and he caught every team's attention because he is expected to run a 4.2 at the Scouting Combine. Running back, however, needs to be upgraded behind starter Matt Forte, as Kevin Jones can't be trusted because of his injury history, plus the combination of Garrett Wolfe and Adrian Peterson only contributes on special teams. Joique Bell, a 5-11, 224-pound bowling ball from Wayne State, is a name to remember on draft weekend, as he had an official meeting with team officials during the week.


FB Rashawn Jackson
AP Images: Dave Martin

Incumbent Jason McKie may be feeling his seat getting warmer at the fullback spot, with Rashawn Jackson of Virginia, a dynamite lead blocker at 6-1 and 239 pounds, drawing Chicago's eyes.

4. Free safety position still a difficult one to fill comfortably
Once Mike Brown started to break down physically and no longer had the wheels to keep up in coverage at free safety, the Bears were forced to move him into the box as a strong safety. Ever since that switch, free safety has been a turnstile, highlighted by Danieal Manning, who has all the attributes needed to be a sensational player but makes too many mistakes between his ears. Chicago has a bunch of strong safeties in house right now with Kevin Payne, Craig Steltz and rookie Al Afalava, although all three of them are better in-the-box defenders than center-field ball hawks.

The only safety spotted spending significant time with Bears officials at the Senior Bowl was Harry Coleman of LSU, and considering he lined up at linebacker his last season in Baton Rouge, no way can he play free safety on Sunday.

5. A wild-card entry into the tight end derby might happen again
The Monsters of the Midway were three-deep at tight end during last year's offseason program, but that didn't stop Angelo from bringing in veteran Michael Gaines. Since Gaines earned a reputation around the league as a solid blocker, this was obviously an attempt to motivate third stringer Kellen Davis, who is a monster at 6-7 and 262 pounds but has always shown more desire to be a passing-game receiver than a running-game blocker. Now with Desmond Clark in the final season of his contract and Davis still somewhat of a disappointment so far, Chicago scoped out young tight ends at the Senior Bowl.

Garrett Graham of Wisconsin, Mike Hoomanawanui of Illinois and Dorin Dickerson of Pittsburgh were discussed, with all three considered better receivers than blockers at this point by scouts.


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John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


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